True confession time: As a teen, I was heavily influenced by those one-page magazine articles on celebrities where they’d tell you what hair and makeup products they supposedly used. I can still picture perfectly the photos accompanying a Lacey Chabert interview circa 1998… probably because I immediately went out and bought every single product she recommended (Hypnotic Poison perfume because she said “it smells like Hawaii”, this weird MAC lipstick that was pale green and glittery and Estee Lauder Minute Makeup Stick which is literally my concealer to this day even though it’s been discontinued and I have to hunt for it on eBay like a psycho who doesn’t care about expiration dates on beauty products). The other day, my mom sent me a link to the Bonne Bell website’s Discontinued Items page and it got me reminiscing about other long-lost or at least long-forgotten products, the body washes and face scrubs and Wet ‘n’ Wild nail polishes I lusted after when the world of beauty was brand new to me:
Clairol Herbal Essence Shampoo – THE ORIGINAL. None of this current Hello Hydration Fruit Fusion hoopla. My mom had the original one in the original packaging with the beautiful goddess girl on it and I remember I’d always flip open the top when I used her shower just to take a big deep whiff of it.
Teen Spirit – by Mennen! Technically this stuff is still available but it’s made by Colgate-Palmolive now and it’s extremely hard to find and only comes in, like, two scents. Teen Spirit was my very first deodorant, years before I actually needed it, and the choice between Baby Powder Soft and Romantic Rose felt very make or break.
Gap Grass – And Heaven, Om, Dream… I’m only singling out Grass because for some reason that was the one that got everyone SO excited. How did they get a perfume to smell exactly like fresh-cut grass? Now, of course, we have Demeter perfumes that come in every scent from Bonfire to Play-Doh, but when Grass first hit the scene, it felt like magic. To me it means middle school, playdates after soccer practice and trips to the mall to flip through the black-light posters at Spencer’s Gifts.
Noxzema – Sure, you can still buy it. But is it the same? No. I’m talking about the Noxzema glory days of the ’80s and ’90s, when that little blue jar filled with thick, pungent white cream meant absolute guaranteed beauty. Every cool teenage girl I knew had it placed prominently on her bathroom sink. Rebecca Gayheart was the face of Noxzema, and take a look at how dewy and innocent she was. Pre-stint on 90210, pre-deadly car crash, pre-hot-tub-photos-with-McSteamy. What a happy, clear-skinned time we all were having.
Buf-Pufs – These were scrubby little face sponges you used to rub cleanser onto your face until your skin squeaked. My friend Ericka reminded me that sometimes you’d get a card in a magazine you could use to send away for a free Buf-Puf. These things still exist but between the popularity of expensive exfoliating face scrubs and products like the Neutrogena Wave Sonic Power Cleanser, I’m not sure anyone still uses them.
Sea Breeze astringent – I’m starting to realize that in the ’80s and ’90s, there simply weren’t as many choices when it came to face washes and skin creams, so it always felt like EVERYONE was using the same one. In this case, Sea Breeze. What a rite of pimply passage to buy your first bottle of the stinging, blue acidic liquid. I probably rubbed it on my face ten times a day. That itching burn meant it was working, right?
Oxy Pads – Oxycute ‘em! The commercials for these and their creamy cousin, Oxy 10, would literally claim that these products could get rid of a pimple, like, instantly.
Sun-In – Who didn’t spend a summer with orange-tinted hair thanks to Sun-In? Everyone knows that when you’re meeting your friends down at the pool club, you pack your Garfield towel, a Lois Lowry book, some Banana Boat tanning oil and a bottle of Sun-In. Duh. See you at the snack bar!
Nair – I feel like the popularity of Nair was based on sexy little commercials (Who Wears Short Shorts?) designed to trick middle school girls into believing they wouldn’t have to go through the annoyance and discomfort of shaving and waxing for the rest of their lives. I remember thinking, “Why doesn’t EVERYONE use Nair?” And then, of course, I got a whiff of the putrid scent. And saw how little hair it removed. And experienced a burning rash everywhere the cream touched my skin.
L.A. Looks Hair Gel – It is simply not possible that we all needed hair gel in the 90s. The only women I know who use gel these days have either extremely curly or extremely short hairstyles. But we all had L.A. Looks. It really came down to the packaging. Those were the years when we worshipped at the altar of Brenda and Kelly, knew the theme song to “California Dreams” by heart and spent entire weekends attempting to master the skateboarding level of California Games on our best friend’s Sega Genesis. It makes sense that our hair products had to come from the land of eternal coolness, too.
Part of me wishes that all of these products still existed in their original incarnations, not because they worked so well or smelled so delicious, but because to me they represent something akin to childhood innocence. These potions were popular in the days when almost everyone bought their makeup at the drugstore, and any fresh-faced, blonde-permed teen queen could convince me that if I used whatever she was using, I would look exactly like her.
Images via bonne-bell.fashionstylist.com, katnip.wordpress.com, carolesmithturner.com, bridgeybaby.blogspot.com, spoiledpretty.blogspot.com, slimmingpillsuk.net, hair-by-vett.i8.com, acne.org, examiner.com, medicalcareadvices.com, shoppershaul.com, cattscommentary.blogspot.com.